Protection of forests and Natura 2000 areas

 

  • In Estonia, there have been two main strategical documents that set goals for forest biodiversity conservation: Nature Conservation Development Plan and Forestry Development Plan. Both documents are in preparation for the next period until 2030. For the period of 2011–2020 both set not only a quantitative goal to strictly protect at least 10% of the forest area, but as well a goal to improve the quality of the protected areas.
  • The amount of protected forest area has increased in time. According to NFI1 the total share of protected forests is high (25%), and the share of strictly protected forests (no management) is also high (ca 14%). During last 5 years, the overall protected area has increased ca 50 000 hectares, mostly for forest protection.
  • In addition, we have actively improved the quality of the protected areas. According to the Nature Conservation Act, protected areas are divided into different protection zones: strict nature reserve, conservation zone and limited management zone. Strict nature reserves have the strictest protection regime – human intervention is completely excluded. In conservation zones economic activities are prohibited and only activities clearly targeted for achieving conservation objectives are allowed. Most often, the aim is to secure the natural development (no human intervention). In addition, there are limited management zones that are kind of buffer zones and where economic activities are allowed to some extent that will not harm the conservation aims.
  • The integrity and state of protected areas are analysed and if necessary, the nature values are moved to strictly protected zones. During last 5 years more than 75 000 hectares of different (mostly forest) habitats have been re-zoned from the limited management zone to strictly protected zone. Therefore, the share and total area of forests, that follow natural development, will increase in longer perspective.
  • Natura 2000 areas are protected according to Nature Conservation Act in Estonia. According to act when determining the protection regime of a Natura 2000 site, the ecological requirements of the species and habitats (conservation objectives) must be taken into account. Forest habitat types are zoned into the strict protection zone to the extent that ensures the achievement of conservation objectives. Currently 461 278 hectares of forest land is protected, of that 365 096 ha is protected in Natura 2000 areas and additional 96 182 hectares in nationally protected areas.
  • All allowed activities in limited management zones are stipulated in the site specific protection rules. Every activity is assessed and compliance confirmed by the Environmental Board. The activities should not harm conservation objectives and can only be allowed in so called buffer zones. The Natura network has been considered sufficient for the conservation of all Annex I habitat types and Annex II species of Habitats Directive as well as for the Annex I species and migratory species of Birds Directive. Currently the Natura 2000 network in Estonia consists of 66 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and 541 Sites of Community Importance (SCIs). This makes up to 7769 km2 (17.1% of total land area) of terrestrial SCIs and 6167 km2 (13.6% of total land area) of terrestrial SPAs.
  • The status of Habitats Directive Annex I forest habitats has been assessed as favourable (9180, 91E0), unfavourable-inadequate (2180, 9020, 9050, 9060, 91D0, 91F0) or unfavourable-bad (9010, 9080).
  • The overall conservation status of forest types have been more or less the same compared with the previous report but trends in conservation status of some habitats are negative. The main reasons behind unfavourable status of forest habitats and species is earlier forest management (before establishing protected areas), forestry drainage and intensified forest management, mainly clear cutting in habitats outside Natura 2000 area but also in limited management zones. However, the majority of Annex I forest habitats are protected in strict protection zones.
  • In addition to Nature Conservation Act, Forest Act regulates the protection of woodland key habitats. It is an additional measure to so-called classical nature conservation with the aim to acknowledge and propagate nature values among forest owners. Protection of key habitats is obligatory on the state and municipal land, private owners may agree on protection through agreements with the state.
Last updated: 29 April 2021


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